Stylish at Work

Past, Present and Future - My Non New Year's Resolution for 2017

LifestyleSanam Khamneipur SmithComment

When I was a child, I wanted to be an artist (this was before my parents convinced me that if I were to be an artist, then I'd starve and be unhappy, typical immigrant parent response  - but that's another story). I loved painting, beading and making jewelry, creating dried flower arrangements, and making paper using recycled newspapers I had turned into mush. Anything using my hands, I loved. I would spend hours in my bedroom, getting lost in the flow of whatever art or craft piece I was working on. I would forget to eat, stay up late, losing myself in the joy and focus of creating. I miss that.

That's why this year, my new year's resolution is not really a resolution at all, but more of an exhortation or command to myself: Create. I'm not much of a person for setting resolutions especially the kind that start on January 1. My logic is, if you want to do something why wait until a new year? Even though new year's resolutions are not usually my thing, I am one for setting intentions, and this year's is to create. I love the idea of a simple one-word, theme for the year. My theme for last year was Abundance, and along with it I had 4 sub resolution-like intentions, which you can read about here.

Back to today... it doesn't matter what I create, it can be a beautiful (or not so beautifully played according to my husband) piece of piano by Chopin that I play, a watercolor I paint, or a story I write, or even a blog post I share. It can be a carefully curated outfit, or selection of photos for an album or my desk at work, as long as I am making something that wasn't there before. Getting metaphysical here, it can even be creating an experience, for myself or for others. Creation doesn't need to result in tangible objects, although it can.

In one of my favorite books on creativity, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author encourages her readers to create not for an audience, not for approval or praise, but purely for the sake of creating. Even if only for an audience of one, meaning oneself, making something, art or otherwise, is valuable. I love that advice, because personally in the past I have felt like my work needed to have an audience to make it important, but what she's saying is that the creation is the most important thing of all. When creating, it doesn't matter who sees it, who doesn't see it, if people like it or if they don't as long as one makes it.

So there you go, my theme for the year is CREATE. I've included an iPhone photo, that I love, of an onion. Looking forward to sharing more of my creations of all kind, with you.

If you had to chose a one word theme for 2017, what would it be?

How to Nail a Skype Interview

Career, Career AdviceSanam Khamneipur SmithComment

In the age of telecommuting, busy schedules, travel and easy access to information (and jobs) all over the country and world, Skype interviews have become much more common.

At least half a dozen people I know have recently been called upon to interview on Skype, as either a first or second step in the interview process. And they were understandably nervous. While Skype interviews are becoming more common, most of us are still used to in person or phone interviews. Plus the idea of being interviewed while in your home is also kind of strange. But Skype or video interviews are just as important as phone or in person interviews, and there are many ways to do them wrong. Here are six suggestions, to make sure you do yours right.

Dress the Part - Even though you may be tempted to only dress up your upper half - the part of you that will be visible on camera, don’t do it. While interviewing with your bottom half in pajamas or jeans may seem tempting, it will put you in a different state of mind than wearing a head to toe professional interview outfit. For tips on what to wear to a job interview, check out my post here.

Test, test, test - Make sure that you test that everything on your computer is working, the video, the sound. Find a friend or family member who you can do a test with either several days before the interview, the day of or even both. Make sure they can hear and see you. There’s nothing worse than opening up your computer and launching Skype minutes before the interview, only to find out something’s not working. In addition to testing the technical aspects, make sure to also test out your interviewer’s view during your conversation, which leads me to # 4.

Frame the shot - make sure that you test out both the lighting and the background of the shot, prior to your interview. Ideally you want your face and body to be well lit from the front (rather than from the back which will make your face harder to see) and you want the background will be minimal and sparse, so as not to distract from the main attraction: you. During your test run try out different spots in your home with different lighting and see which allows your friend or family member to see you best.

If you’re not early, then you’re late - The same way that you would never want to be late for an in person interview, don’t ever be late for a Skype interview. Even if it means sitting in front of your computer starting at it for 5 minutes, get seated and situated with your set, and logged in, at least 5-10 minutes before your actual interview.

Smile and make eye contact (but not the way you would in person) - Maybe one of the hardest parts of adjusting to a Skype interview is the technical challenge of having the screen with the person’s face where your screen is, but having the camera at the top of your computer. Looking into his or her eye means looking into the camera. Make sure to look where the camera is, in order to make eye contact throughout the interview. It may feel awkward at first so if this is something you need to practice during your test, then do it. Also, make sure to smile.

Technology - The added layer of challenge with a video interview, as I’ve already mentioned before, is technology and the possibility of malfunctions or mishaps. Be prepared by addressing any problems as soon as they happen and by suggesting a potential solution.

Make a Great First Impression - Just like you would in a real life interview, make sure to smile, make eye contact and greet the interviewer by their first name, as soon as you meet - even if it’s via Skype. A great first impression during this first virtual handshake will get your interview off to a great start. With these tips you will be sure to be well prepared for a successful conversation.

Happy Interviewing!

photo by Eternos Indicadores


My name is Sanam, and I am a recovering perfectionist

CareerSanam Khamneipur SmithComment

I am writing about perfectionism because it's a force in my life that needs to be tamed. Anyone who knows me well, knows I have high expectations, but also rules for myself and my actions and performance, that are above and beyond what they need to be.

This tendency I’ve had since childhood is serious, and needs to go. I liken it to an addiction because it gives the illusion of control, and in some ways numbs or hides what the reality of a situation is. Dinner parties need to be perfect, with everything tasting delicious and no dish burnt, outfits impeccable, home totally in order, and closet color coded and sorted, when possible, from heaviest fabrics to lightest, per Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying (which I write about here). I’ve even included a recent photo of my closet to prove my point.

I am that person that when asked in a job interview what my greatest weakness is, says “I’m a perfectionist.” Anyone who hears that wants to roll their eyes and respond with something like “How could that be a bad thing?” or “That’s not really a weakness, how could it be?”  Well, I’ll tell you how, three ways (and there are many more).

  • Negative Focus instead of a positive one - If you’re only focusing on perfection as a standard, then anything less than “perfect” will fall short. This may seem like an obvious one, but seriously striving for perfect masks the beauty or accomplishment of whatever task you’ve done.  The accomplishment becomes unworthy unless it meets the impossible standard of perfection. In short, it disables you from seeing the positivity in something.        
  • New Ideas Die before they’re born. With perfectionism, there’s not room for happy accidents or mistakes. The best ideas sometimes comes unintentionally, from “mistakes.” If you don’t allow room for those mistakes to exist, then you’re ending many possibilities.
  • Learning Slows - Striving to be perfect can lead you to avoid trying new things or putting yourself in situations where you might make mistakes, thus missing out on a whole lot of learning. Trial and error is how we learn new things, and stretching ourselves to do things that are outside of our comfort zone whether in work or in life, is a hallmark of growth.
  • Relationships Suffer - Invariably, when we expect perfection of ourselves, we also have that standard in mind for others. We end up being critical and judgemental based on impossibly high standards. We start to judge people, whether it’s a coworker or loved one, as somehow flawed and falling short of our ideals. We end up disappointed, and end up in a lose-lose game.

So where is all this leading to? I’m calling myself out on my perfectionism because I want to change. Here’s a view things I’ve learned to tame the beast of perfectionism:

  1. Practice Letting Go - This one is easier said than done, but awareness is the first step. Once you know perfectionism is a challenge in your life, you can practice simply deciding not to be as attached to an outcome. Doing things to gain perspective helps greatly, whether it’s meditating, going for a quick walk and fresh air, or getting the second opinion of a trusted (non-perfectionst) person in your life.   

  2. Recognize There’s Not One “Right” Way - even the term perfect presumes that there’s only one possible positive outcome, but in reality there are always many. Remind yourself of this truth.

  3. What’s the worse that could happen? How likely is that to happen? - As yourself this question and find out the answer. This can help dampen your concerns. This tip, which is a great one, is from an interview on Forbes of Dr. Brene Brown by Oprah.

  4. If there were a serious life event that were to occur (birth, death, etc.) how would the importance of this rate in comparison? - Whatever thing is happening right now that's not "perfect" or how it's "supposed to be" may seem super serious, but sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself the big questions to get things into perspective.

Do you have any perfectionist tendencies or know anyone who does? If so, I hope these tips helped!

Vintage Style

Dresses, Style AdviceSanam Khamneipur SmithComment

Although you wouldn't know it from looking at how I dress these days, especially to work, people who know me from way back when (think high school) probably remember clearly all the vintage duds I sported on a daily basis. 

From Hawaiian Muu Muu type dresses, to velvety bell bottoms snatched from a relative's closet (who actually wore them during the 70's), to hippie-ish floral print dresses made in India that I bought at some vintage shop in L.A. (oh how I wish I had kept some of those beautiful articles of clothing – if only Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up was around then, exhorting me to keep things that spark joy – read my post on her here), but I digress... basically what I was saying is that vintage clothes used to be my jam. 

I was reminded of this fact recently when I was going through my mom's closet. She had the best clothes in the 80's - heck she still does! The other day, while searching through her closet, I happened to find a gem of a mini-houndstooth suit that happened to fit me just like a glove. Perfect for work, and super stylish. She'd been planning to toss or give it away because she thought it was out-of-date. After trying it on I said "No way, this is mine!" and "The 80's are back in style."

Long story short, I'm reconnecting with this former passion and hobby of mine, by sharing some of my favorite L.A. vintage shops discovered throughout my years living here. I found this pretty Hawaiian inspired number at Pattye's Closet in Highland Park. A few other vintage shops I love:

Decades on Melrose Avenue is the best for beautiful vintage gowns or cocktail dresses, for those times where you want something really special and unique to wear to an event (wedding season anyone?)

Gotta Have It in Venice is perfect for finding that cool Navajo style jacket you've been wanting, that vintage-y leather jacket, or a hippie style floral top.

Wasteland in Santa Monica near the Third Street Promenade is a treasure trove of unique finds, whether vintage t-shirts, flannels, or designer duds like a Marni or Prada top. They also buy clothes on the regular and I've successfully sold lots of my stylish designer items here.

Finally, Hidden Treasures in Topanga Canyon is a little hidden gem of wonder and magical-ness. The store looks like a pirate ship crossed with a mermaid's land-based home in a fairy-tale, and is full of fun vintage finds. Plus if you go there, you can make it into a fun day of hiking and eating in this beautiful hidden part of Los Angeles.

There are also a plethora of vintage or consignment shops now online selling things like designer handbags, shoes and clothes, and of course there's always eBay. For me though, there's always something magical about stepping back into time by trying on clothes from another era in person.

Are there any vintage styles you love, that are back in fashion? Do you have any vintage shops you love, wherever you live? Would love to know about them!